The Malta Independent 4 August 2021, Wednesday

TMID Editorial: Referendum - Gozo is ‘Taghna Lkoll’

Friday, 18 June 2021, 08:22 Last update: about 3 months ago

The Nationalist Party announced Wednesday its proposals for Gozo, ahead of the upcoming general election.

In a welcome change of strategy, the PN is this time actually revealing several of its proposals, rather than keeping them hidden until a few weeks before the people vote, and most of the proposals it has come up with so far are quite interesting.

The same can be said about its proposals for Gozo, particularly its pledge to rescind the Steward Health Care contract and provide new health services and facilities on the sister island. While this is not exactly new, the PN is now binding itself to actually do this should it be elected to government.

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But the party courted controversy when it suggested that the undersea tunnel linking Gozo and Malta should be decided through a referendum held among Gozitans.

It’s as if the PN is saying that Gozo belongs exclusively to the Gozitans, and that the Maltese should not have a say in a matter that will impact not only Gozo as part of our country, but also parts of Malta, and the entire Maltese economy.

We understand that the Gozo tunnel idea was born out of the pleas of Gozitans to have a permanent, weather-proof link to Malta, making the daily commute for many residents of the island easier and safer.

But the fact is that such a mammoth project threatens not only to ruin Gozo’s charm but will also have major effects on its other end – in the north of Malta.

As independent MP Arnold Cassola pointed out, the residents and farmers of Manikata, Pwales, L-Imbordin and L-Gherien, whose livelihood, living conditions and quality of life will be destroyed, should have a say. They are not second-class citizens. And neither are the rest of us.

But this argument goes even beyond the physical effects that the tunnel will have on Gozo and the North of Malta.

To mimic Labour’s pre-2013 election mantra, Gozo is Taghna Lkoll – it belongs to us all, collectively, as a nation.

And the entire population should have a say on a project that could ruin Gozo once and for all, both in terms of environmental degradation and economic effects.

It is like saying that only the residents of Mdina should have a say on whether a skyscraper should be built at the Silent City, or only Valletta residents should have a say on whether the Grand Master’s Palace should be pulled down and replaced by a casino.

The PN must understand that every inch of the country belongs to all its people, not only to the inhabitants of that particular town, village or area.

So, no, the Gozo tunnel should be decided through a national referendum, because each and every one of us has a right to voice our opinion on the project.

This is even more important at a time when public sentiment against overdevelopment in Gozo is on the rise, and after the introduction of not one, but two fast ferry operators, which have somewhat reduced the need for the undersea tunnel.

 

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